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IL in plain English
What is Information Literacy?
According to the ACRLs' Information Literacy Standards for Higher Education, an information literate person is able to:
- determine the extent of information needed;
- access the needed information effectively and efficiently;
- evaluate information and its sources critically;
- incorporate selected information into one's knowledge base;
- use information effectively to accomplish a specific purpose; and,
- understand the economic, legal, and social issues surrounding the use of information, and access and use information ethically and legally.
Why is Information Literacy important?
Today's world demands critical thinking skills and the ability to select and evaluate resources while using information ethically.
The Bissell Library supports students, faculty, and staff to improve their information literacy by:
- helping them become familiar with the library space and its resources.
- maximizing use of instructional print or online resources.
- encouraging faculty to collaborate with librarians in curriculum development and course research support.
Our Subject Librarians are available for you to support your discipline-specific research and library skills.
You can seek advice through our Online Subject Guides or request a one-to-one consultation with your Subject Librarian either in person or via email.
We can help you with:
- locating appropriate academic information in the library databases
- developing a research strategy
- improving your research skills
- referencing accurately using the Harvard OU style
- providing advice on how to avoid plagiarism
How Can I...?
Find what kind of resources the Library holds
Search for print books
Search for audiovisual materials
to find links to all the collections on our Library Catalog.
Search for ebooks
Go to our Library Catalog 'Advanced Search'
;. Search for your topic. Limit by 'Item Type' using any combination of the following: Audio CDs ; CD-ROMs (Computer files) ; Cassette tapes ; DVDs ; Videocassettes.
Search for electronic journals/emagazines
for a full list on all latest help guides and video tutorials on how to effectively search and use our EbscoHost ebooks database.
Search for electronic journal articles
to find help guides and video tutorials on how to use the alphabetical list of the electronic journals and magazines available through our database subscriptions.
A more advanced use of this service is setting up alerts to receive new issues on specific journal titles you may be interested in. Here is the Help Guide
to find help guides and video tutorials on how to use our Ebsco Discovery Service (EDS). EDS is an all-in-one search tool, i.e. all database content is searched simultaneously. These tutorials cover topics from basic searching, to more advanced searching, to understanding the results. A more advanced use of this service is setting alerts for being updated on new additions on specific topics. Please note you need to use limiters to effectively find content to your topic.
- Become acquainted with the vocabulary of your topic. You can either use the thesaurus found on Academic Search Premier as "Subject Terms" or on Business Source Elite as "Thesaurus". Both links can be found on each database on the top blue bar - left side.
- Get an overview of your topic. You could use a reference resource, such as an Encyclopedia or Wikipedia article. Please, note that information from these sources should not be cited in your Reference list unless you quote directly. Keep in mind that citing Wikipedia in an academic paper reduces the quality of your assignment and therefore you will end up with a lower grade.
- Narrowing your topic. Depending on your topic consider limiting by geographical area, e.g. country, region, etc. or chronological period, e.g. 21st century, decade of 60's. Furthermore, you may establish relevant subtopics by examining the encyclopedia article subdivisions. Additionally, the narrowed terms found in the thesauri of Academic Search Premier or Business Source Elite may be useful.
Consider the type of the source
Consider the age of the source
- Books, Magazines, Academic Journals, Newspapers, Encyclopedias, Library Databases, Library Catalog, Web (websites, blogs, e-news, web 2.0 tools).
Is it an academic or non-academic resource?
Will it add value to my paper or not?
- Primary or Secondary source?
A primary source is considered to be an original source of information. It could be one of the following:
A secondary source is considered to discuss or follow up on information originally presented in primary sources. It could be one of the following:
- Original works of art
- Works of literature
- Indexes, abstracts, bibliographies (used to locate a secondary source)
- Journal articles
- Magazines, trade or academic journals?
- Magazines are intended for a general readership and the articles are mainly written by journalists.
- Trade journals are intended for professionals in a trade, business or industry as they include news and reports on latest developments in the field.
- Academic journals are intended for the scholarly community as they include reviews of the literature in an field and research
Tip: Library subscription databases usually offer a limiter feature to 'peer reviewed' content.
When collecting sources ask yourself the following:
Tip: If you're investigating a topic that is in a constant state of change, prefer selecting the most recent reliable research available.
Note: After information or research is produced a period of time is required before the publication date. The following table shows the regular cycle of information:
- Where can I find information on this subject?
Possible answers: Books, Scholarly Journals, Conference Proceedings, Popular Magazines, Internet, TV, Radio, Newspapers or other mass media.
- How recent is the source, i.e. when was it published?
Tip: The information cycle is not strictly linear as shown above. Depending on the topic, research may first appear in scholarly journals and later in newspapers, popular magazines, etc.
|On the day of an event
|Television, radio, web
||Newspapers, TV, radio, web
||Trade magazines and scholarly journals
Scholarly journals, books, conference proceedings
Evaluation of information
- Narrowing search
If your search retrieves too many results try the following:
- Use more specific terms (thesauri may be consulted)
- Use advanced search limiters, such as: chronological period, geographical area, full-text (on databases), type of publication (e.g. academic journals)
- Broadening search
If your search retrieves too few results try the following:
- Use synonyms (thesauri may be consulted)
- Use broader terms (thesauri may be consulted)>
- Delete limiters as appropriate
- Use bibliographies to find sources that may be relevant to your topic. Note: Some sources may not be available via this library's resources.
- Boolean Operators
Advance search options usually provide Boolean operators to broaden (OR) or narrow (AND/NOT) your search.
- Use Subject Terms
For more relevant results you may refine your original search by selecting more specific terms that appear on the retrieved records.
- Books, journal/magazine articles
Material accessed via the library resources (online databases, library catalog) have already been evaluated. It is only necessary to evaluate in terms of relevance to your research topic.
- Web evaluation criteria
Click here for detailed information on how to evaluate resources found on the web.
- Harvard OU citation style
ACT's undergraduate students are required to use the Harvard OU citation style when referencing. Click here for a comprehensive guide with in-text and bibliography examples.
- Citing library resources
Most Library subscription databases (including ebooks) contain a cite feature. You may select the Harvard style from the dropdown menu.
NOTE: Make sure you cross-check against OU Harvard citation guide for any format differences
- Citation Machines
Very useful tools may be found on the web. Add the URL to cite a webisite, the ISBN to cite books, or fill out the citation elements manually to generate a reference list with the consistent format you select. Recommended examples: Citation Machine; Cite This For Me; EasyBib (Easybib provides only MLA for free).
- Citation Management Software
For lengthy bibliographical lists (e.g. senior thesis) you may need help organizing your entries and article files. We recommend using Zotero software which is installed on all Library computers. Here you may find our Zotero Help Guide
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